The Lost Art of Mentoring: Part 1

The first installment in a series on mentoring.

Throughout life, we’re all impacted by the interactions and relationships we encounter and enjoy with others. Most of us can pinpoint a specific person who changed our lives and helped shape who we are today. Whether a relative, spouse, professor, spiritual guide, or friend, we have been exponentially blessed when we allowed ourselves to be molded and shaped by those we trust. The art of mentorship has played a part in human development for thousands of years. Its roots are found in Homer’s Odyssey, where the goddess Athena took on the appearance of an old man, named Mentor, in order to guide another character through trials. This is a beautiful way to approach mentorship. It’s a chance to shadow and nearly mimic someone’s wisdom in order to one day achieve the same type of success and understanding.

Years after the fact, I am still impacted by a specific mentor who would go on walks with me to talk through issues, listen, give advice, and be transparent about his own shortcomings, which taught me to strive for resolution in trials, listen with the intent of understanding, offer constructive input, and humbly know that I will forever be a work in progress. These qualities have molded me into who I am through constancy and desire to grow.

The sad reality is that this art form has been somewhat lost in the area of business. In past generations, mentoring was alive and well in the workforce. Apprenticeships were a great example of this, with young protégés often working under the master craftsman for years to better their skills and work ethic. Modern-day work mentorships now exist in the form of internships. Though this type of knowledge-based program is a derivative of the age-old apprenticeship, it has in a lot of ways, strayed far from its purest intent. Today, offices use interns mostly for busy work or as the office gopher instead of seeing it as an opportunity to mold young minds and develop the intern into a company’s top talent.

With the ever-changing climate in business, social media, and technology, now is a great time to resurface one of the greatest gifts you can give another – your knowledge. Take past mentors in life as inspiration to bridge the gap in your office between your least experienced or struggling employees. Don’t underestimate the power you can have to make a difference in a person’s work life, as well as home life. If you have an engagement problem in your office, this is a great way to turn the tides.

There have been countless books and informational guides written about the different types of mentoring, and as a leader, it is important to be familiar with the pros and cons of each style. But one thing is certain, one-on-one mentoring can be the most effective in building a strong relationship with your mentee and developing a strong corporate value system. However, it may not be possible for you to take time to mentor each of your staff members one-on-one, which is why an executive mentoring strategy may be best for your organization. Maintaining the one-on-one approach, this strategy creates a culture of mentoring by trickling down from CEO to VPs, managers to directors, and team leaders to employees. With everyone in the organization being in meaningful relationships, the workforce will remain innovative, engaged, and that revolving door problem you may have with retention can ultimately be resolved.

According to the American Society of Training and Development (ASTD), 75% of executives say mentoring was key to their success, and 35% of employees who don’t receive mentoring search for new jobs within the next year. Though you may understand the impact mentoring had in your development, you could be losing your top employees by not imparting the one thing you once needed to get to where you are today. If mentoring has developed you into the leader you are – it’s time to start developing the leaders of tomorrow.

What are some ways mentoring has affected you or your business? Let us know in the comments section below!

2 Responses to The Lost Art of Mentoring: Part 1

  1. Helen December 21, 2012 at 9:41 am #

    My first job in 1980 right out of high school was with a delivery service in Downtown L.A. 32 years later I obtained my B.A. in Business Management, prepare taxes for HR Block and have been in many facets of manufacturing for 20 years. It was due to a mentor I had in my first job. At 18, single mom with no life plan, my mentor saw in me what I did not. In today’s world I do not see enough young people being mentored. They are lazy and want everything handed to them or they are left to their own demise with little to no direction. All employees under my direction have been mentored by me as I was mentored to. It should be a job requirement of managers, supervisors and leads to mentor their employees. This will improve operations of a company and most important improve communications which are vital to people and operations.


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